Friday, September 10, 2010

New England Menu for Housewarming

I mentioned in a previous post that I had my family (in-laws included) over for our housewarming lunch. Preparing a menu for the occasion was a headache, given the dietary restrictions and preferences in the family. On one hand, my mom is a vegetarian. On the other hand, one father prefers fresh, simple, quality seafood, and doesn't eat chicken or beef. Meanwhile, the other father (my in-law) is a huge carnivore and prefers quantity. How do I please every one?

Given that we have moved further into the heart of New England, I thought a New England menu was appropriate and could work for the crowd - fresh seafood, potatoes, dairy. After much thought, I came up with this menu:
  • lump crab cakes (Cook's Illustrated recipe)
  • lobster rolls
  • hearty salad (similar to a nicoise, with hard boiled egg, heirloom tomatoes, green beans and potatoes, but vegetarian of course)
  • carb dish for the vegetarian (roasted tomato pasta)
  • steamed sweet corn
  • chocolate cookies, and
  • home made vanilla bean ice cream (Alton Brown recipe)

I would've made New England Clam Chowder, bu
t my husband forbid me from making it in the high 70s temperature. With the exception to the crab cakes, cookies and ice cream, everything else I've made before (I know, it's a no no to try new recipes for a party). Sadly, the crab cakes didn't turn out as I had hoped (the recipe was a tad too salty and used more scallions than I would've liked) and the ice cream was a bit too sweet for my family's taste. Oh well, you can't please every one, especially when it comes to a family of food critics like my parents and my brother.

The lobster rolls turned out well, with the exception of the buns that my husband toasted, which needed more toasting according to my brother. I think we'll use top split buns next time because my sister wanted the outside of the bun toasted as well. And then I had my father complaining that the lobster meat may have been undercooked, but I thought it was perfectly silky and not chewy like overcooked lobster that you get almost everywhere. My sister second that. Here they are while the buns were getting filled.

This was the order of things for the day. Pretty much everything was made that morning (ice cream and pasta were made night before), starting at 7:30am:
  • form the crab cakes so they can chill in the fridge for at least an hour before cooking; very time consuming process (all this while my husband went out to get fresh lobsters)
  • bake cookies and set them up
  • make salad dressing and other ingredients
  • cook the lobsters an hour ahead of the event and make the lobster roll filling
  • cook the crab cakes and steam the corn 15 minutes ahead of the event
  • toast the buns and fill with the lobster filling
  • assemble the salad and drizzle with dressing when guests arrive
I find it really helpful to come up with a check list of things to do for a party ahead of time, so I make sure I always have one to keep me sane. The result: I got all the food out and was able to enjoy my family's company!

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